People are needlessly dying from meningitis because they believe a rash is the main or only symptom, according to a poll.
Some 71% of more than 1,300 adults thought a rash was the most prominent sign while 11% of people could not list any symptoms at all.
The Meningitis Trust, which carried out the poll, warned that a rash which does not fade under pressure is a key sign of blood poisoning, but does not always appear.
When it does, it can be one of the last symptoms to arrive and it is frequently “too late”.
The charity said meningitis can start with flu-like symptoms including a fever, headache, vomiting and muscle pain.
Other signs are a fever accompanied by cold hands and feet, drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, a dislike of bright lights and seizures.
Babies are often floppy and unresponsive, dislike being touched and suffer rapid breathing or have a moaning cry.
The soft spot on the top of their head may also bulge.
Sue Davie, chief executive of the charity, said people must “not wait for a rash”.
She added: “By thinking meningitis is just a rash, people are dying. It is time the public takes notice and makes a fight against this terrifying, deadly disease.”